Another half-year has passed, so it’s time for AP’s annual mid-year report, where we break down the best of the best so far, with the cut-off date of June 30. Stay tuned all this week for our reports on best albums, singles, videos and our most anticipated albums of the rest of the year.
Antarctigo Vespucci - "I’m Giving Up On U 2"
I discovered this song after managing editor Scott Heisel wrote about it in our April list of Songs You Need To Hear, and I've been rocking out to it in my car, at the gym and alone in my kitchen since then. The members of Antarctigo Vespucci—Chris Farren of Fake Problems and Jeff Rosenstock formerly of Bomb The Music Industry! (featuring Benny Horowitz of the Gaslight Anthem on drums)—have created a flawless (or pretty damn close) pop-rock song. For a song about breaking off a relationship with a toxic person, "Soulmate Stuff" is surprisingly cheerful. That's thanks in large part to the background "ooohs" in the chorus, Rosenstock and Farren's always upbeat voices and the fact that you will instantly think of Bono whenever you hear this. (It's gonna happen, so don't bother to fight it.) One listen to this song, and you'll want to throw your arms around the shoulders of those closest to you and bellow the lyrics at the top of your lungs. That's just what a good pop song does to you. —Brittany Moseley
Candy Hearts - “All The Ways You Let Me Down”
Candy Hearts’ “All The Ways You Let Me Down” captures their irresistible sugar-coated pop-rock in the most pristine fashion possible. Nonetheless, the band have never been one to favor studio tricks and overproduction, so with the help from producer and New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert, this track in particular emits an extremely genuine rock ’n’ roll aesthetic. Frontwoman Mariel Loveland seamlessly intertwines her bittersweet lyricism and memorable vocal patterns with the band’s windows-down instrumentals to create a song that was meant to be a mainstay on your summer soundtrack. This writer would even go as far to say that he wouldn’t be surprised to turn on the radio one day and hear this gem; not only is it that versatile, it’s just that good. —Tyler Sharp
Issues – “Stingray Affliction”
Lower Than Atlantis - "Here We Go"
Location, location, location—it's not just for real estate. I wonder, if these guys were from LA instead of the U.K., would they be opening for Foo Fighters by now? "Here We Go" is a warning shot from Lower Then Atlantis; they're not just a scene-affiliated standout anymore, but are out to swallow mainstream rock whole with their self-titled album in September. Simple, explosive song structure, strong melodies (British accent included) and major-label production make up its first single. Unless you're the boy who cried "sellout," you've got to hope this is the one that breaks them. —Brian Kraus
Morrissey - "Istanbul"
As the Pope of Mope prepares to drop his tenth album, World Peace Is None Of Your Business, amid another frustrating tour cancellation, he's graced us with four early singles. The best, "Istanbul," conjures strong musical similarities to the band that made Morrissey famous, the Smiths. Johnny Marr-esque guitars and groove-based percussion aside, "Istanbul" stands on its own two feet as an especially strong late-career Moz track; in part, because it abandons the singer's recent affinity for politically-charged themes in favor of more personal lyricism. It's hands down my favorite Morrissey song in years, and, being the über-fan that I am, my favorite single of the year so far. —Philip Obenschain
My Mouth Is The Speaker - "Your New Apartment"
I gushed about this song back in April as well as repeatedly on Twitter, but despite my repeated pleas, "Your New Apartment" is currently not topping the Top 40. No matter: The song is still the best individual track I've heard all year, and it's also the most played single in my iTunes library of 2014, as well (only being beaten out by a few album tracks from the new Masked Intruder and Taking Back Sunday records). It's not "emo revival," and it doesn't fit comfortably into the current wave of pop-punk, either, but there are certainly elements from each of those genres. The lyrics are a painful look at a relationship gone awry that doesn't blame the woman, which is an incredibly refreshing change of pace. (Seriously, dudes, enough complaining about how "awful" girls are to you—odds are, you're a shithead and you caused your own misery.) —Scott Heisel
Ronnie Radke - "Asshole" feat. Andy Biersack
Great art must express a strong point of view. It doesn't have to be Rage Against The Machine. Nine Inch Nails, Darkthrone and For Today all articulate something greater than "sweet riffs," though they have those, too. Ronnie Radke is proactive rather than reactive, putting each and every part of himself into his music, his image, his social media posts and performances, regardless of any (often temporary) backlash. Many predicted the Falling In Reverse frontman would be laughed out of the scene after the so-called "worst music video ever" that was "Alone," yet now he's dominating with a post-millennial collage of radio rock, Avenged Sevenfold-style shred and hip-hop (and "Alone" gets the biggest reaction at their shows). The evolution of Radke's increasingly clever, self-revelatory and dense wordplay across the "mixtape" he's steadily doled out continues to prove he wasn't fucking around when he started rapping. The added bonus of Andy Biersack singing the hook to "Asshole" serves as strong affirmation that the frontmen from FIR and BVB are the real deal in a sea of pretenders. —Ryan J. Downey
Gerard Way - “Action Cat”
Gerard Way’s first official solo release (another single titled “Millions” leaked earlier this year; artwork exists) finally shows off the results of his long-foreshadowed fuzz-pedal obsession with a track that is intentionally murky. The energetic grit and half-buried sound has split some fans who are bummed they can’t hear Way’s voice clearly, but it’s all part of the master plan, as he tweeted of his experience mixing with producer Doug McKean: “I dunno, just stick ’em fuckin’ under everything. Yes. A little more. Thank you." The song feels both like a whimsical stroll down a path of technicolor, nebulous, floating thoughts swirling into one other and like a very honest, clear lesson all at once (“Don’t ask a lot/And you won’t lose a lot/Don’t ask for much”), placing itself in a space that is very much cerebral, ungrounded and free—an ultimate contemplative escape to a place where the listener can build his or her own story atop the abstraction. —Cassie Whitt